Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Coffee Shop Etiquette SOS

Ok, so we're at our favorite new coffee shop the other day with friends who never fail to crack us up, and we're all having a dandy time drinking our coffees and eating inventive sandwiches.

But what should happen to suck the joy right out of the room? A guy on a laptop leans over and says, "Hey, could you guys keep it down? There's a lot of people trying to study in here."

Now the foursome at our table would love to fancy ourselves the types who meet this kind of arrogance with snappy retorts. Instead, we were all shamed into silence, lost in some clumsy mental inventory of 'Up your nose with a rubber hose' before the moment had passed us by.

So I need to enlist the help of the four (beloved) people who read this blog with any regularity. Please let me know your answer to the following quiz so I can adjust my coffee-shop persona accordingly.

Here goes:

Hey Christy . . .

A) That guy was a total doofus, and a coffee shop isn't a library. You guys were totally in the right, and that loser needs an attitude adjustment.

B) A coffee shop isn't a restaurant or bar. A little decorum seems reasonable, and I probably would have asked you to pipe down too.

C) You were the first person to rush to the defense of the owner of A Taste of Heaven when he asked kids to use their inside voices and ended up making the national news. Face it, CP, your cackling guffaw is worlds more obnoxious than the dulcet tones of toddlers at play. Take your lumps.

D) That coffee-shop owner would *much* rather have a lively four-top ordering sandwiches and pricey espresso drinks than a dumpy guy who nurses a house brew for three hours in front of his laptop. Plus he wasn't even studying anyway! He was making a flyer for what looked to be an auto show! What a jerk.

E) You're clearly stacking the decks in favor of a pro-conviviality position. On principle alone, I have to go with the asshole at the laptop.

F) You've just taken a pay cut for a job with longer hours and far worse benefits! You can't afford the frivolities of fancy coffee and panini sandwiches anyway.

G) Wait, what was the question again?

Thanks to all who cast a vote in this important referendum.


j3n said...

really? he said that? should have had me with you, i would have made some comment to him that would have proved embarrassing for matt.

Rosemary said...

You should've told him that McDonald's has lattes now.

Rosemary said...

Seriously, though...I know someone who worked at Starbucks and talked about how hell-bent the company was on marketing itself as a "third space": a place between home and the office (or school) where people could meet and work or study.

Regardless, though, a coffeeshop ain't a library. You don't go there for the peace and quiet, and if it's that noisy, you a) move to another table, or b) go to the actual library, where they may or may not let you drink coffee.

My verdict? The guy's a total a$$hole. And given that this coffeeshop is new, I think you should continue to go there and make lots of noise to send a message to Sulky Auto-Show Dude that he can't dictate what the climate is going to be.

A middle-ground option...since it *is* new, maybe it's a good time to get acquainted with the owners and baristas to see what *their* vision of the place is? That might tell you more than anything about how to gauge your own behavior.

leslie said...

A & D, most certainly. And adult conversation is a different game than apeshit toddlers of yuppie parents.

kkurtz said...

precisely why I drink my coffee @ home. the hound never shushes.

Robert said...

"I'm sorry, I didn't realize the 'special' kids had finals this time of year."

tracy said...

I was going to say A & D, too, and "go to the library, man!"--precisely because I've been on the other side of the assy-taplop! Once at a lunchy place, a rowdy group of gals apologized to ME for making so much noise while I sat there trying to work. And they WERE loud, but I had to say, "Hey, if I thought I was going to get any real work done, I wouldn't be in a place like this."

That said, the library SUCKS now, too. The public library is all about the apeshit toddlers and apeshit adults who can't read the sign that tells them not to talk on the cell phones at the library. I hate the library and I hate its asswebconnection.

Diana Sudyka said...

As someone that works from home, I like to get out of my studio every once in a while with the laptop and set up shop in a cafe. Yes, I go there to work, but also to be around people, and hear conversation. If I wanted the atmosphere of a library, I would go to a library or stay in my studio. As Tracy already pointed out,though, people don't know how to behave in libraries anymore anyway: the cellphones and using librarians as free baby sitters for their apeshit toddlers.

Anyway, if people want to read, study, work on a laptop at a cafe; fine. I'm one of those people, but I go with the understanding that the essential nature of a cafe is that of a space where people gather to socialize. If I get annoyed at anyone, it's for the same reasons I get annoyed at people on the EL, in the library, or any other public space: rampant cellphone usage, letting their bratty kids crawl/run/stomp all over the place, or people just being unreasonably loud and completely dominating a space with their racket/conversation.

I have no idea how loud you guys were being. My guess is that it was totally reasonable, as I know you to be a considerate and reasonable person. The guy was being a jerk, and if he wants peace and quiet he should seek out a monastery or stay at home.

leslie said...

you know, it comforts me seeing you have energy to blog this week. It's a good sign, yes??

Natalie said...

A & D, which, coincidently, is a diaper rash ointment that I would have recommend he apply liberally to his chapped ass.

psychlops said...

I gotta agree with the others - unless the owner's specifically stated otherwise, a coffee shop is for socializing, good cheer, good conversation, good coffee. Like Diana I'll occasionally drag my laptop to a nearby cafe to escape the solitude of home/office and to be amongst the hustle and bustle of people living life. I have my choice of several coffee shops (including three in Brunswick) but my favorite is the teeny tiny one in Bath with the comfy chairs/sofa and tables so small that you have to put your coffee on a chair if your laptop's on the table. It's the homiest, loudest, coziest and busiest of all my choices which is why I love it. Plus their ginger cookies are freakin' awesome.

Christy said...

The people have clearly spoken! (I plan to bring your notes with me next time I go to the coffee shop, just in case that guy is there and invites a good talking-to).

But first I'm going to suggest that John change his band's name to Apeshit Toddlers.

Thanks to all! I feel much better.

Lynn Stevens said...

Is it too late to vote? Ditto: A&D.

Andrew said...

I'm quite late to the conversation, but I'd like to add an alternative point of view, as a person who often sits alone at a coffee shop, attempting to read a book, while others howl with laughter, clearly only to annoy the crap out of me. And I have at times responded in a much more nasty way than this guy did. But then, I'm a horrible person with deep emotional scarring that flairs up in socially inappropriate ways.

I don't think it matters to the discussion whether the guy was working on a laptop, reading a novel, writing a novel, or staring dejectedly into his coffee. It also doesn't really matter what drink he ordered; he might be a regular, he might talk up the shop to his friends, bringing in large amounts of business, he might be from out of town. Is it really possible for one customer to judge her/his relative value compared to another? It's hard enough for a business owner to do such things.

He certainly has a right to ask you if you'd quiet down; is it really arrogant of him to do so? As described, he asked relatively politely, even giving his reason for the request. (Of course, he might have had a snotty tone, but you don't seem to suggest that.)

I note, incidentally, that he didn't claim to be studying himself, though it's certainly reasonable to infer it from his statement.

There are strong suggestions in your tale, Christy, that his request hit you more deeply than it really should have. Searching for ad hominem digs, for example -- calling him arrogant, dumpy, a doofus, and an asshole -- these do not conform to the standards of reasonable argument, and they suggest to me that his request represented to you something greater than was actually there on the surface.

So why not answer his question, "Sorry, hon, but we're here to socialize after a hard week, and I don't think we're being unreasonably loud." Or even, "No." Why was his question instead taken as a command?

Or why not stand up and ask the assembled masses for a democratic vote on the issue? Or ask the proprietor if they have a policy on such things?

(Really, the best answer of all to such questions, if you don't wish to take them seriously, is to respond very loudly, "No, I do not wish to have sex with you!")

Love to you & John... And please keep your cackling guffaw out of my local coffee shop, unless we're cackling with you.

Christy said...

Lynn and Andrew, welcome!

Lynn, I glanced at your blog as well, and it looks like we have many of the same preoccupations. Hope we'll get a chance to meet in person sometime.

And Andrew, thanks for adding a new angle to the debate. I do want to reassure you, though, that while I never miss a chance to hop on the analyst's couch, those descriptions were exaggerated for effect, and there was (at least I hoped) a healthy dose of self-flagellation between the lines. That said, we'll be glad to cackle and guffaw with you guys anytime! Name the place, my friend.

Stove said...

Adding my two cents...
I have zero expectation of silence in a coffee shop. In college, everyone would go to there to study, but the main goal was to get out of the house and socialize a bit. Hard core studying needed to be done in the libraries. I can't even imagine getting any work done in a coffee shop. I can barely do it in the office with all the interruptions. That said, I probably would have turned to him, glared then give a truly sardonic 'Really?'.

Jeddan, Saudi Arabia said...

Hmm... In my beautiful country, family, and girls sit separately from solitary men. This would not happen.
When workers are unemployed, they are simply sent home as a opposed to hanging about in coffee shops.

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